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Age Discrimination in the Church?

Posted by Matt Postiff September 28, 2014 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Society  Church 

Conventional wisdom says that if your church has mostly old people, it is dying and will soon be buried and forgotten.

What qualifies as old is somewhat slippery, with no one wanting to admit that they fall into that category, but we'll say, for sake of argument, the cut-off age is 55 years.

I grant there are a lot of situations that have made the adage work out well. And the church needs to reach everyone in its community, including younger people and families so that it does not simply "die off."

But in some cases, the idea behind the conventional wisdom has led to an age-based discrimination in which some churches take older folks for granted or even actively marginalize them. That is a big mistake. Here's why:

  1. An article in The Atlantic shows that the distribution of the population by age is markedly shifting toward the older end of the spectrum. The "age pyramid" used to be a triangle; now it is more rectangular, and in China it is an upside-down trapezoid because of government birth control policies.
  2. Older Christians often have a lot of Biblical and experiential wisdom, so it would be shortsighted to marginalize them. One church I know of drove all the older folks away with their "new methods" and destroyed the church as a true gospel witness. To ignore the elders smacks of the youthful "wisdom" of Rehoboam that rejected good counsel (1 Kings 12:6-8).
  3. Older Christians may be driven away from such churches and need a church home that is not so culturally relevant (with loud music, for instance) that it is irrelevant for the older culture.
  4. Older Christians have more time (especially if retired) and more disposable income to support God's work.
  5. The church must reach out to older people as well, for there are many who do not know the gospel of Christ. The Great Commission knows no age limits.
  6. The body of Christ is supposed to diverse, and I would argue it should be about as diverse in terms of ethnic and age makeup as the culture around it. A church with only young people might be "exciting" but it would not be right.
  7. The church needs older men and women to teach the younger men and women. In our culture, with the teen-ification of twenty somethings, I don't think this means that 30 year-olds qualify as "older" so as to teach the 20 year-olds. We need men and women in their 50s and 60s who have some Biblical meat on their bones to train the younger people how to conduct themselves, how to dress, how to run the home, how to participate in church, etc. (Titus 2:3-5)
  8. The fact is that all of us are getting older. I hope there are plenty of elderly-friendly churches when I reach that stage!

Consider how your church might reach older folks. That will please God.

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